Born Joshua Shedroff, February 1, 1969, in Berkeley, CA; son of Dewey Redman (a jazz saxophonist) and Renee Shedroff (an artists' model, dancer, and librarian); married, 1997. Education: Harvard University, degree in urban studies, 1991. Addresses: Addresses: Record company-Warner Brothers, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020.
Ever since saxophonist Joshua Redman burst onto the jazz scene in 1991, he has displayed the maturity and skill of a veteran, earning immediate recognition from critics and colleagues alike. As the winner of a prestigious talent competition in his early twenties, this "young lion" astounded listeners with a richness and technical precision, and has honed his ability over the years to become more soulful as well. His first album, Joshua Redman, was released on the Warner Brothers label in 1993, and since then, his output has continued to bring accolades. One of the so-called New Emotionalists, Redman's works aim to convey a raw power rather than an intellectual experience. "Music doesn't come from music, music comes from life," he outlined to Jim Macnie in Down Beat. "That means taking walks, hanging out, going to parties, reading, playing sports ... the list is endless, right?" Redman's approach has helped to popularize jazz to a wider audience. But not only is Redman an outstanding musician, he has a fascinating background, too. He had won a full scholarship to Harvard, graduated summa cum laude, and was set to enter law school when he decided to defer his education in order to concentrate on music for a while. Jazz became his permanent career, and he went on to release a number of albums as a leader, as well as appearing as a sideman on others. In 1998, he released his sixth major effort, Timeless Tales (For Changing Times).
Redman was born on February 1, 1969, in Berkeley, California. His mother, Renee Shedroff, is the daughter of Eastern European Orthodox Jewish immigrants. She was an amateur dancer and artists' model who now works as a librarian. His father is Dewey Redman, a jazz saxophonist who worked with experimental jazz legend Ornette Coleman. His parents met in San Francisco during the mid-1960s and never married. Redman's father, who quit his job as a teacher in Texas to play jazz, was already working in New York with Coleman when his son was conceived on a visit from Shedroff. In fact, he had moved east in 1967 with another woman, but Shedroff was intent on having a child with him. After Redman was born, she left her modeling job in order to raise him, surviving on welfare in a one-bedroom apartment in Berkeley. Redman's mother passed along her passion for music, and her son showed talent from a young age. When Redman was just two-and-a-half years old, his mom took him to a concert featuring an Indian instrument called the gamelan, and when they returned home, he mimicked it by lining up pots and pans in order of the tones they produced. He also could play the recorder and clarinet.
When Redman was ten, he began playing tenor saxophone, thanks to a school program that loaned instruments to low-income students. He was influenced by his mother's extensive record collection featuring the likes of Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, and Cannonball Adderly. In addition, he went with his mother to see his father play in concert about once a year when he came to town, although he has noted that he was not emulating his father by taking up the sax. His father was not involved in his upbringing, but Redman harbors no ill will. He told Stephen J. Dubner inNew York, "I have a good relationship with my dad-it's just not a father- son relationship. It's more of a buddy relationship, a mentor-student relationship." In fact, Redman took note of his father's relative obscurity in the music industry and decided from a young age that he would pursue other roads. "I wanted to make sure that even if I ended up in music, I would never be forced to do something that runs counter to my artistic instincts in order to put food on the table," Redman explained to Zan Stewart in Down Beat.
Though Redman became a soloist with the prestigious Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble, he never wavered from his scholarly pursuits. After graduating as valedictorian of his class in 1986, he won a full scholarship to Harvard University, where he considered becoming a doctor before majoring in urban studies, planning on a career in law. "I was very interested in addressing the social problems of the city-poverty, racism, homelessness," Remand related to Dan Ouellette in Down Beat. "I thought being a lawyer would give me the best background to make a difference." As a respite from his studies, Redman continued to enjoy music, joining the jazz band at Harvard and playing gigs during his summers off from school. In 1989, in fact, he performed at the Village Vanguard in Manhattan with his father. After graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1991 with a grade point average of 3.87, he took his law school entrance exams and received a perfect score. He was accepted at Harvard and Stanford as well as his first choice, Yale, but decided to take a one-year hiatus from academia in order to play music full-time.
After moving to New York, Redman rented a place with four friends in Brooklyn, not far from where his father lived, and they began seeing each other regularly for the first time and collaborating. They performed together and after about a year, released an album, Choices, for a small label out of Europe called enja. Becoming weary of the confusion surrounding why he and his father did not share a surname, Redman changed his last name. In 1991, after some prodding from his friends, he entered the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Instrumental Competition in Washington, D.C. The respected event was judged by big names Benny Carter, Branford Marsalis, Jackie McLean, Jimmy Heath, and Frank Wess, and offered a first prize of $10,000. Redman won it with his renditions of Jerry Valentine's Second Balcony Jump, the ballad Soul Eyes by Mal Waldron, and Monk's Evidence. As Dan Ouellette put it in Down Beat, "He blew the rest of the saxophonists off the stage."
Initially skeptical of the idea of a competition, Redman felt music was too subjective to be ranked, but later he was pleased to have had the opportunity to showcase his talent. He remarked to Geoffrey Himes in the Washington Post that competitions are "great for the cause of jazz, because Americans love competition, and that hook will get the public interested in young musicians they might never listen to otherwise." Winning the competition sparked Redman's career. He began receiving calls from luminaries like Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden; he was given the chance to work with people he respected. And, as part of his first prize, he was the featured performer at the Blues Alley club. Soon, record companies were dashing to sign him. A scout for Warner Brothers had seen him play at the Vanguard and again at the Monk competition, and knew he had found a gem. Warner Brothers signed Redman in 1992, and in 1993, after just a four-hour recording session, he released Joshua Redman. The album contained six original tunes and some covers of classic hits like Salt Peanuts, Body and Soul, and I Got You (I Feel Good).
Overall, critics were amazed that such a young, new musician could have such talent. "Jazz is about improvisation," Redman told Paul Keegan in GQ. "When I practice, I just pick up the horn and play through a song, taking the song to different keys, trying different improvisational ideas, experimenting with it." His approach worked, winning him comparisons to much more seasoned musicians, such as Sonny Rollins, and an outpouring of admiration. Stewart noted in Down Beat, "Listening to the album, you're grabbed by Redman's sound. It's rich, weighty, and deep. And this fellow makes the music move, creating heat and interest, be it on a sultry blues or a come-hither ballad." Gene Seymour in Newsday remarked that Joshua Redman "is simply the most startlingly assured debut album by a young jazz artist in memory." In Time, David E. Thigpen commented, "It's been a long time since jazz produced a saxophonist with Redman's fearless improvisational skill and mature melodic sense." Some critics were somewhat less enthusiastic, claiming that Redman's style was a bit too reserved, but overall, praise was universal. The album sold more than 30,000 copies during its first four months-a remarkable amount for a jazz recording-and was nominated for a Grammy Award.
Once word got out, other musicians desired Redman as a sideman. He played with veteran traditionalists such as Milt Jackson and Joe Williams, while also winning respect from eclectic players like Pat Metheny. He even performed in June of 1993 on the White House lawn with Illinois Jacquet and President Bill Clinton. In August of that year, he was a standout at a jam session at the Lincoln Center, showing up jazz greats like David Murray and George Coleman, then toured with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra in 1994. In the meantime, he was collecting a slew of awards, being named the best new artist by the Jazz Times, 1992, hot jazz artist by Rolling Stone, 1993, and number one tenor saxophonist (talent deserving of wider recognition) in the Down Beat critics' poll, 1993.
Redman's second release, Wish, released in September of 1993, was recorded live and featured an all-star lineup including Metheny on guitar, Charlie Haden on bass, and Billy Higgins on drums. The foursome rehearsed for only a few hours in order to capture that spontaneity that Redman cherished, and again, it was a success. Wish sold more than 90,000 copies in the United States and won the Down Beat readers poll for album of the year in 1994; Redman also won jazz artist of the year honors and narrowly missed being named best tenor sax player (Joe Henderson squeaked past). Still, some observers pointed out that Redman had not yet developed a distinctive style, one that would identify him by his unique sound. However, this was not held against him, especially in light of the fact that his talent, charisma, and attractiveness seemed to be welcoming a wider audience to the world of jazz. Another facet that endeared him to wider audiences was his use of popular songs remade as jazz tunes, such as Eric Clapton's Tears in Heaven and Stevie Wonder's Make Sure You're Sure. Redman's next effort, Mood Swing, 1994, captured even more listeners, selling 104,000 copies. Some critics found it to be his finest work up to that point.
The mid-1990s found Redman on the road more than at home. In 1995, he released another album, but not from the studio. The double-CD set Spirit of the Moment: Live at the Village Vanguard included originals and covers, and infused a bluesy feel that popularized Redman's music even more. He later expounded to Macnie in Down Beat, "People have found my music to be accessible, and that's been both a blessing and a curse.... Some have said that because my music is accessible, I must be compromising it-conforming it: to appeal to people. Implicitly that means it lacks substance.... I am who I am and I play the way I play, and the way I play has been and will be honest and from my soul.... To a lot of people, there's a natural opposition between great art and success. That's a dangerous mindset."
As Redman's star rose, his reputation only blossomed. Britt Robson in the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote, that although "there are moments when Redman still can fall prey to crowd- pleasing gimmickry," he "deserves credit for refusing to rest on his laurels, showing constant improvement over the past four years. His trademark has become clipped phrases that are deftly strung together to create irresistibly swinging songs, brimming with tonal variation and creative turns." In 1996, Redman released Freedom in the Groove, which also proved to be fast-seller, and in 1998, he came out with Timeless Tales (For Changing Times). This collection boasted an interesting melange of pop tunes, including the Beatles' Eleanor Rigby, Bob Dylan's The Times They Are A-Changin', and other songs by artists ranging from Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hammerstein, and the Gershwins to Prince, Joni Mitchell, and Stevie Wonder.
Redman was married in 1997 and moved from his midtown Manhattan home to a New York City suburb. He enjoys reading and going to art museums, and likes the television show Star Trek. He was the first jazz musician to have a clothes designer-Donna Karan-as a corporate sponsor. Redman also appeared in director Robert Altman's 1996 film Kansas City, about the rise of the jazz scene there, as well as the criminal and political arenas, during the 1930s. As for Redman's outlook on the future of jazz, he responded that he has no idea what to expect: "That's what makes it exciting," Redman remarked to Martin Gayford in the Daily Telegraph. "If I knew what it was going to look like, I wouldn't be so excited to be a part of it. Jazz is a music of surprise; it's a music of spontaneity. I think jazz musicians live-I know I do-for being surprised and not knowing what's going to come next."
Joshua Redman's Career
Began playing tenor sax, age ten; member of Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble, 1983-86; performed with Harvard University's jazz band and participated in informal jam sessions in the Boston area, 1986-91; moved to Brooklyn, NY and began performing in clubs; signed with Warner Brothers, 1992; released debut album, Joshua Redman, 1993; performed with President Bill Clinton on the White House lawn, 1993; toured with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, 1994.
Joshua Redman's Awards
Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition, first place, 1991; Jazz Times best new artist, 1992; Rolling Stone hot jazz artist 1993; Down Beat critics' poll, named number one tenor saxophonist (talent deserving of wider recognition), 1993; Down Beat readers poll, jazz artist of the year, 1994, and album of the year, 1994, for Wish; Rolling Stone critics' poll, best jazz artist, 1994 and 1995.
- Selected discography
- Joshua Redman , Warner Bros., 1993.
- Wish , Warner Bros., 1993.
- Mood Swing , Warner Bros., 1994.
- Spirit of the Moment: Live at the Village Vanguard , Warner Bros., 1995.
- Freedom in the Groove , Warner Bros., 1996.
- Timeless Tales (For Changing Times) , Warner Bros., 1998.
- Dewey Redman, Choices , enja, 1992;
- John Hicks, Friends Old and New , RCA, 1992;
- Bob Thiele Collective, Louis Satchmo , Red Baron, 1992;
- Danny Gatton and Bobby Watson, New York Stories , Blue Note, 1992;
- Elvin Jones, Youngblood , Enja, 1992;
- Kenny Drew, Jr., A Look Inside , Antilles, 1993;
- Eric Felten and Jimmy Knepper, T-Bop , Soul Note, 1993.
May 24, 2005: Redman's album, Momentum, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_5/index.jsp, May 30, 2005.
- Contemporary Musicians , volume 12, Gale Research, 1994.
- Daily Telegraph , October 31, 1998, p. 8.
- Dallas Morning News , February 28, 1997, p. 30.
- Down Beat , June 1993, p. 26; December 1994, p. 28; January 1996, p. 10; May 1996, p. 16; January 1999, p. 24.
- Economist , January 22, 1994, p. 94.
- Entertainment Weekly , September 30, 1994, p. 59; September 15, 1995, p. 106.
- Essence , November 1994, p. 64.
- GQ , June 1994, p. 93.
- Los Angeles Times , November 1, 1997, p. F12.
- Newsday , April 1, 1993, p. 67; October 7, 1993, p. 84; September 14, 1994, p. B7.
- New York , January 24, 1994, p. 36.
- Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), May 7, 1995, p. 1F; February 7, 1996, p. 1E; February 8, 1996, p. 4B.
- Time , November 22, 1993, p. 76; November 30, 1998, p. 128.
- Toronto Star , October 8, 1998.
- Washington Post , December 3, 1993, p. N25.
- "Joshua Redman," Yahoo! Music, http://musicfinder.yahoo.com (February 4, 1999).